It was one of Peter Skillen’s “back in the day” messages that brought this back to mind.
It was first developed for the Macintosh which probably meant why he was early to use this and I wasn’t. We hadn’t embraced the Macintosh platform at the time but I do remember my first experience with it at an event at OISE.
We’d long struggled with the concept of guest speakers. Typically, you’d bring a guest speaker in to speak. That cost money and was very time and energy intensive. With CU-SeeMe and a lot of extra technology that we now take for granted, the presenter could be virtually in the room with you as you learned. Sure, there were alternatives like speaker phones (or even lower tech solutions with a phone, a microphone, and a speaker) but here you could actually see the person on the other end.
The whole process added that human layer to the experience that was hard to quantify but I just sensed that this was a glimpse of things to come and I knew that I just had to explore. After all, it would be much more time efficient than hopping in the car and driving across the county to meet with teachers or students. As I think back, it is pretty funny. It didn’t come cheaply; I had to buy microphones (remember the snowball microphone), sound cards, and cameras for each end of the conversation. Then, it was a matter of driving to the destination to set everything up, call my secretary to go into my room and talk her through how to set up the connection and make it happen. I have to smile as I convert the whole experience to a single paragraph. It sure involved much more than that.
Later, it was time to take it live. At the appointed hour, I initiated the call only to get dead air on the other end. I had to make a phone call only to find out that the intended conversation had been interrupted by an unexpected on call at the other end. We eventually did make it work but it was a great deal of effort for a proof of concept.
Thankfully, technology provided better solutions. Now computers come with everything ready to go. The camera is there; built in speakers and microphones are things we just take for granted. It makes for a very easy way to bring in a speaker. Recently, I visited Leslie Boercamp’s students in Owen Sound while I suffered with my cold at home.
And the software is so much more sophisticated than in those early days. We now have a wide variety of options when it comes to video conferencing. From Hangouts to Google Duo to Skype to the Ministry of Education licensed Adobe Connect and more, we have so many things to choose from. Conversations aren’t limited to 1:1 either. Group discussions can be great but there’s always that one person who has one thing that doesn’t work. You can even video conference on your phone. I’ve had many a dog walk interrupted …
The whole technology piece has become so much better and morphed into greater things that we enjoy today. Pick your favourite piece of video conferencing software and you can now chat with others, send emojis, conducts polls, and even draw on the screen. It’s a long way that we’ve come, to be sure.
For conference planners, bringing in a speaker via video conferencing offers great flexibility in addition to the Plan B when flights are cancelled for bad weather or for a myriad of other reasons. Some conferences will even broadcast their events live so that you can enjoy even if you can’t be there. Just make sure to ask for permission!
We can now focus on more important things. Typically, people will position themselves in front of a bookcase so that everyone thinks that you’re a scholar with all those books behind you. I don’t have that luxury here though. Right behind me is a bathroom so I just need to make sure that the door is closed before I go live. I’m sure that, if I was in Hawaii, I’d position things so that there’s an ocean in the background.
I’d like to hear your thoughts on this Sunday.
- Did you ever use the original CU-SeeMe?
- What’s your favourite choice of video conferencing software?
- Have you ever heard a presenter do their thing in this manner rather than in person? Is it just as powerful for you?
- Have you ever brought a guest speaker into your classroom via video conferencing? How did it go?
- Have you ever experimented with the concept of virtual fieldtrips for your class?
Please share your thoughts via comment below.
Do you have an idea or thought that would be appropriate for my “Whatever happened to … ” series of blog posts. They can all, by the way, be revisited here.
Please visit this Padlet and add your idea. I’d love for it to be an inspiration for a post!